The Freedom Bug

Optimistic Facts and Predictions About the Arab Revolutions
You kill Americans you pay a hefty price
Sunnis, Shiites Hold Unity Prayers in Kuwait

Many in the west are still mesmerized in their absorption of what the Arab world is going through. Many think the Iranian Mullahs are the ultimate winners and few believe the US, with its allies, will be the winners in the results unfolding before us.

You can ask an analyst sitting comfortably at home in McLean or a TV reporter whose job is to interview Arab officials or an Arab dissident whose job is to have his finger on the pulse of the street and you will probably get three different analysis of why and what will happen next.

As a businessman, I can tell you that I saw something happening in the region last year that should have given me an advanced warning: Educated bureaucrats were refusing to accept their ruler’s orders to award contracts to his choice of companies. Some told me that they would work hard to assess and determine the best direction for their country and an uneducated ruler would veto their choice because of political considerations resulting in more layers of protection for his rule. They were angry at their rulers.

Today, I believe these bureaucrats are very much involved, behind the scene, in rallying against these rulers. This factor alone should be a source of comfort to those who believe the Iranian Mullahs will have the upper hand in the region. This is about freedom and not about following in the footsteps of just another decrepit regime. Failing to understand why the masses are revolting or trying to connect their revolt to the Muslim Brotherhood is ill-conceived.

Will the Islamists try and take advantage? Of course, they will. But the youths on the streets are more interested in the music of Michael Jackson than the Minaret’s calls for prayers, in having access than be subjected to more restrictions, in expressing freely rather than being imposed upon.  They won’t let bearded men old enough to be their great grandfathers tell them how to live anymore. One of the most popular Facebook pages by a Syrian dissident is called: “We Want Faster Internet in Syria”. I can’t recall any that said “We Want To Pray Five Times a Day”.

The Mideast is one vast sea of youths whose tender age conceals a risk-mitigating factor many analysts are familiar with. They are unafraid to die because they have nothing to lose. Unlike the ruler whose fat bank account makes him cautious and timid (Qaddafi is an exception because he is a real psychopath).  They are the Internet generation who have, over the last 10 years, surfed the world.

Between 2000 and 2008, Tunisia saw a 1,666% increase in Internet subscriptions by its youthful majority (The average age in about 60% of the Arab population is under 25) . Egypt: 1,816%. Libya: 2,500%. Bahrain: 525%. Algeria: 6,900%. Yemen: 2,033%. Syria: 7,007% (Syria will soon have its revolution). How can we not expect the people to rise when they get informed about the miserable lives their rulers subject them to? Against this background of swelling comfort, ability to excel and to decide one’s fate, Arab youths have concluded that only through freedom they can have any chance to have a decent life. Same holds true for the Arab bureaucrats who are already familiar with the notion of freedom having studied abroad in American and British Universities.

This is not a Muslim Brotherhood Revolution or an Islamist one. What are the commonalities between Islamists stupid enough to divert attention towards Israel, as their deposed rulers have done, and the youths revolting for better economic conditions? Zip, nothing, nada.

This is an economic revolution and not a religious one. This is about the freedom bug every human covets with his life.



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